nuclear fallout shelters – NYC

A recent research trip to New York revealed one particular area of city cartography that fascinates the authors and is seemingly without significant historical data with respect their record. The provision of nuclear fallout shelters for the public was a considerable undertaking in the United States during the Cold War era. Any such contingency in the UK was based upon the preservation of the few who would control governmental processes from secure underground bases with significant resources to sustain life for a determinate period.

A excerpt from mywebtimes article

In the fall of 1961, tension was ratcheting up between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviets were putting up the Berlin Wall and flexing their nuclear muscle with a flurry of bomb tests, the radioactive fallout from which was carried around the world by wind. In response to the warming up of the Cold War, the federal government launched the Community Fallout Shelter Program.

Under the program, a survey was done in cities across the country in which appropriate structures were designated as shelters, with the federal government providing food, sanitation, medical and radiological detection supplies. The food was to last two weeks. The shelters were not primarily intended to protect against the explosion of a nuclear bomb itself, but rather against the ensuing radioactivity, which would decrease with time.

Of interest here is the typological mapping of buildings that may subsequently ensue. The existing buildings selected were rarely modified and were chosen for their specific construction type and mass; a mapped record of these sites would presume a post-holocaust society and the new nodal points of this (thankfully non-existant) community. The author also found the same signs on the west coast of the US in a visit to Seattle, Washington.

Excerpt from wikipedia

Effective public shelters can be the middle floors of some tall buildings or parking structures, or below ground level in most buildings with more than 10 floors. The thickness of the upper floors must form an effective shield, and the windows of the sheltered area must not view fallout-covered ground that is closer than 1.5 km (1 mi).

Photographs from New York


4 thoughts on “nuclear fallout shelters – NYC

  1. Nice collection.

    I am doing the same thing in Yonkers.

    Check out

    A wonderful history of the all-too familiar sign.

  2. That link to CONELRAD is great. Thanks. When I first spotted these in Seattle I was bemused, there was no such public amenities in the UK. Last year when searching online, there was very little material. The history of the sign is fantastic.

  3. i used some pics off google image please let me know if credit belongs to you. its nice to see so many others with interest and love for this history, great work by the way! liam gibson-NYC

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